Yesterday, Meet The Press moderator Tom Brokaw asked Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) if a “massive overhaul of the American healthcare system” is possible “given the state of the economy.” Before Clyburn could answer, Brokaw’s other guest, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), injected that health care reform “is precisely what we should not be doing” and suggested that the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) “was one of the most divisive issues of the last Congress“:
SEN. MARTINEZ: Well, it, it just can’t be. I mean, this is precisely what we should not be doing. SCHIP was one of the most divisive issues of the last Congress, where there was no consensus, there was no common ground.
As Clyburn correctly pointed out, SCHIP is “not a divisive program.” In fact, before President Bush vetoed two separate bills that would have expanded children’s health insurance, Congress passed the program by overwhelming majorities. Also:
- 63% of voters favored expanding SCHIP to cover 4 million more uninsured children at a cost of $35 billion.
- 43 governors out of 50 supported SCHIP renewal.
- Key Senate Republicans blasted the president. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, criticized Bush for not understanding the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) “vowed to override a Bush veto” and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) urged the president to support a bipartisan compromise on SCHIP.
Concerned that providing health insurance to children would divide the country, Martinez largely disregarded the 18.8 percent of Floridian children living without health insurance and voted against both SCHIP-expansion bills.
Today, Florida has “the second-highest percentage of uninsured children in the United States, and is third in the nation in its actual number of children who lack insurance.”